Invercargill-based Stabicraft Marine has been exporting its full line of welded aluminium boats to customers in North America for years. But with interest in its products growing, the company has recently leased a production space near Seattle as a step toward establishing a full production plant in the US.

The 30-year-old company says the expansion into the Seattle suburb of Port Angeles is the result of steadily growing demand. In December it signed the lease on a new, 1,500 square-metre facility at the Port of Port Angeles Airport Industrial Park that will be used to perform final assembly of boats shipped from New Zealand in kit form. “The containers will arrive in Seattle and be hauled up to Port Angeles for fit-out,” said Stabicraft marketing manager, Daniel Upperton. “We had been doing this already in the Port of Seattle, but in view of the growing number of boats we have going to the US and Canada now, we really needed a bigger space. We hope to have everything up and running in April.”

Stabicraft sold more than 200 boats in the US and Canada last year says Upperton, with the company anticipating sales growth to between 250 and 300 boats this year. “It’s definitely our fastest-growing market,” he says. “We can generally fit two boats in a container, so it’s fairly efficient. We’ve been shipping boats to North America since the 1990s but it’s really since 2015 that it’s really ramped up. We have more dealerships in both the US and Canada coming on board now, there’s a lot of interest in the product.”

Upperton says that when it begins operations this spring the new Port Angeles facility will employ about a dozen people, with the goal of growing that to between 30 and 40 people over the next three to five years. Stabicraft is currently New Zealand’s largest boat building company, with 180 employees producing more 1,000 boats per year.

– Craig Ritchie